By Niall Gartland
CIARAN Gourley’s commitment to the St Patrick’s Academy is unquestionable but it’s evident in the tone and content of his words that he hasn’t made it a personal crusade to bring the MacRory Cup back to the college.
The former Tyrone defender, always measured in word and deed, helped manage St Pat’s to back-to-back MacRory Cup titles in 2008 and 2009, and he’s persisted with the task in hand during the relative lean times of the last decade.
This is the first time the Dunganon school have featured on MacRory Cup Final day since their new premises was officially opened in 2018.
It’s a massive occasion to put it mildly and Gourley hopes the school population will have something to celebrate come the final whistle on Sunday.
He said: “It’s the first time we’ve been in the final since the new school building was opened. It’s been nine years since we were last in the final so that isn’t a memory for our current school population.
“Hopefully we’ll create new memories for the group of students at St Pat’s today and we’re going to try as best we can with a view towards achieving that.”
Both teams have navigated a perilous path en route to the final. St Pat’s needed penalties to get the better of Patrician, and they edged their semi-final contest against St Joseph’s by a point. For opponents Omagh CBS it’s a similar enough story so there’s no doubt that both teams are steeled with resilience and quality.
Gourley said: “They’re obviously champions, they probably by their own admission will feel they haven’t played well in the quarter and semi-finals but they’ve done enough to get over the line.
“Teams have been chasing them but they’ve shown they’re resilient and can hang in there and grind out a result, so it’s going to be a very tough opposition in the final.”
The Academy qualified for the final by virtue of a hard-earned victory over neighbours St Joseph’s Donaghmore.
Gourley commented: “In my role with the Tyrone Minors over the last number of years I have got to know quite a few of those boys, and they’re all fantastic footballers, and I knew going into this game, we were going to face a battle, if you look at the performance they put in the last day.
“The two semi-finals have gone right down to the wire, they were highly competitive, and we knew this one was going to be the case.”